Horner: We still believe Perez can do it
By Ian Parkes
Thursday 2nd November, 2023 - 4:33pm
Christian Horner has made clear that Sergio Perez’s time at Red Bull will be far from over if he fails to finish runner-up in this year’s F1 drivers’ championship.
In a car at the hands of the – at present – incomparable Max Verstappen, the Dutch driver broke his own record for number of wins in season by taking the chequered flag in the Mexico City Grand Prix for his 16th victory of the year.
Across the garage at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Sergio Perez was to reflect on taking a major gamble that has further intensified the growing pressure on his shoulders despite the fact he has a contract for next season.
In his own words, Perez “paid the price” for risking an audacious overtake around the outside of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Verstappen at the first corner that culminated in him crashing into the Monégasque.
Although he managed to return to the pits, the damage sustained to his RB19 was too much for him to continue.
Horner gave Perez the benefit of the doubt, declaring the Mexican would not be a racing driver if he did not go for a gap, effectively drawing on the words of the late, great Ayrton Senna.
The crash means the gap in the drivers’ standings between second-placed Perez and the chasing Lewis Hamilton, who delivered a fine runner-up performance behind Verstappen, is now just 20 points.
Red Bull has never achieved a one-two in the championship with its drivers in its history, Perez knows it and is anxiously glancing over his shoulder as the seven-time F1 champion draws closer.
Horner insists he still has faith in Perez.
“He’s got three races now to convert that second place,” said Horner.”There are 20 points between him and Lewis.
“He’s had some misfortune, he’s had some issues, but we still believe he can do it between now and the end of the year.”
But as to whether Perez loses his seat if he finishes behind Hamilton, he added: “It’s not as binary as that.
“You’ve got to look at the circumstances. Checo has an agreement with us for next year, and it’s our intention for him to be in the car in 2024.
“We’ll give him all the support that we can to ensure that he finishes second, but there’s no prerequisite that if he doesn’t finish second, you’re out.”
Perez likely departed his home circuit in a state of emotional and mental turmoil, and it now remains to be seen what the effect of his crash in front of his fervent support will have on him.
The upside is the next event comes quickly with this weekend’s São Paulo Grand Prix, which incorporates the last of this season’s six sprints.
It is unsurprising that Horner should again stand by his driver.
“He’s a tough operator, and that’s why he’s in the car because mentally he’s always been able to bounce back,” remarked Horner.
“He’ll brush himself down and he’ll turn it into motivation. A sprint race in Brazil, then Las Vegas, a street circuit, and he’s always run well at street circuit circuits, and Abu Dhabi where he’s always been competitive.
“He’ll have the full support of the team to try and achieve something we’ve not done before.”